Need to know: James Moore gets candid on child poverty

The Industry Minister started talking about not feeding his neighbours' kids

Adrian Wyld/CP

The story
The Industry Minister should know better than to be so candid with a reporter. During a brief interview, James Moore started talking about who was responsible for addressing child poverty, and he pointed the finger at provincial governments. “We’re not going to usurp the province’s jurisdiction on that,” he said, sounding downright deferential. “Empowering families with more power and resources so that they can feed their children is, I think, a good thing.” These statements, on their own, are straight out of the Tory playbook—nothing extraordinary, in the least.

Moore insisted that Canada has “never been wealthier,” and that everyone wants to “make sure that kids go to school full bellied.” But then he made a bad error; he asked a rhetorical question about the role of government. “Is that always the government’s job, to be there to serve people their breakfast?” Academically, that’s a fair question. Politically, it was foolish. And then, as if to drive the point home, he doubled down. “Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so,” Moore said, punctuating things with soft laughter.

Twitter erupted, as it does. Moore engaged in damage control, mostly dismissing that final quote as reported out of context. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But Moore’s spin was lost in the noise. Probably, no one noticed his tweet about the Canada-B.C. Social Housing Agreement, signed by the government just months after taking office, that Moore insisted has “yielded great results” in the province. No defence, short of recanting on that thing about leaving his neighbours’ kids to go hungry, would stop the bleeding.

But Moore didn’t take it back. And maybe this will show up in an attack ad some day. And maybe child-poverty activists have made an eternal enemy to be vanquished. But it probably stands to reason that, if they read into Moore’s voting record, those activists have scarier political foes than James Moore. Perhaps they’ll do their research.

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: Moore has apologized.

In response to a question from a reporter last week, I made an insensitive comment that I deeply regret. I apologize. Caring for each other is a Canadian ethic that I strongly believe in – always have and always will.  Of course poverty is an issue that concerns me, and concerns all Canadians.  All levels of government, indeed all members of our society, have a responsibility to be compassionate and care for those in need. Great work has been done to tackle poverty and the challenges associated with poverty. And while more work is needed, I know the cause of fighting poverty is not helped by comments like those I made last week. For that, I am sorry. 

The stat
Zero: The number of MPs who voted against motions to eliminate child poverty in 1989 and 2009

The quote
“Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” —Industry Minister James Moore



What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Nelson Mandela was laid to rest in South Africa.
National Post
Legendary actor Peter O’Toole died at the age of 81.
Toronto Star Mandela was buried in Qunu.
Ottawa Citizen A renowned Ottawa funeral home is suffering internal turmoil.
CBC News The Maritimes are emerging from a heavy winter storm.
CTV News A Montreal crackdown on massage parlours has caused national debate.
National Newswatch James Moore is under fire for comments about child poverty.


What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Northern energy. The Northwest Territories government hopes a $700-million plan to expand the region’s electrical grid over the next two decades will lower energy bills for its residents and spur economic development in the resource-rich north. The plan will require millions in borrowed funds.
THE GLOBAL China. No one had soft-landed a rover on the moon since the Soviet Union, in 1976, until the Chinese landed one to call its own over the weekend. The Jade Rabbit weighs 140 kilograms, and will test the landscape for natural resources. The landing craft will also conduct experiments.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.